So many good things happened today.
Ariel Miranda spun the first complete game victory of the summer for the Mariners in a much-needed demonstration of rotation stabilization (try saying that five times fast). He struck out nine and walked just one.
Additionally, the Mariners completed the series sweep with their 7-1 win today. The M’s absolutely slaughtered the Rays in the series, outscoring their opponent 28-7.
Even without Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura, the M’s averaged 9.33 runs in the series against an above-average MLB pitching staff. The offensive explosion was mostly courtesy of the bottom-half of the lineup.
Danny Valencia tied a club record by recording hits in nine straight at-bats in a 9-for-10 series. Mike Zunino finally looked intimidating at the plate with a 5-for-11 series that of course featured last night’s grand slam. And Jarrod Dyson had a nice little weekend, going 4-for-10.
So the question remains: is this team finally good again? The M’s are now 28-30, just 2.5 games out of the American League Wild Card (although the AL is really bad this year if you’re not Houston).
Unfortunately, none of the aforementioned heroes will keep up their pace. The M’s would be lucky if even one of them used this weekend as a launching pad for the rest of the season. But in order for the Mariners to continue to compete without two of their best hitters, they’re going to need contributions from guys like those.
It doesn’t have to be the same players. Maybe when Minnesota comes to town, the stars will be Carlos Ruiz, Taylor Motter, and Ben Gamel. Any combination of players will suffice. But somehow the M’s will need more than just the heart of the order to support the team. The pitching staff is finally coming back together with James Paxton’s return combined with Miranda’s resurgence, but the rest of the rotation could use some run support.
While we’re at it, let’s talk about Miranda’s performance. The Cuban lefty was masterful today. He pounded the zone from the get-go and located his fastball with perfection. He wasn’t always getting the strike calls on the edge of the plate, but he was hitting all of his spots.
Miranda didn’t surrender a hit until the fifth inning. All four of the hits he gave up were pretty unconvincing: an infield single, a sun triple, and two bloopers.
Coming into today’s contest, Miranda had never gone more than seven innings in a game. Today he threw nine. Again, this probably isn’t the new norm for Miranda. But it underscores the fact that he’s been very solid this season. Some might argue he’s been the staff’s “ace,” which is a pretty sobering thing to hear in June.
Where the M’s go from here is anyone’s guess. The bottom of the order will crash back to earth, and someone else will have to pick up the slack from there. The starting rotation is finally beginning to stabilize, which will do wonders for the team’s overexerted bullpen.
Tomorrow is an off-day, and then the Twins come to town. The Mariners are finally interesting again, and it’s just in time for summer in Seattle. So kick back and enjoy the fun.